Friday, January 09, 2015

Worthy Granola

I've been reviewing a slew of granola bars lately, but it has been a while since I reviewed regular old granola.  I went through a phase where I tried tons of granola, making yogurt, fruit, and granola parfaits regularly.  And then I stopped, mostly because I just never found granola I cared for.  I know good granola exists, but somehow, I wasn't finding it.  Some, like the ones I tried from Love Grown Foods, had bitter flaxseed that I didn't care for.  Others, like the peanut butter granola from Erin Baker's Granola sounded like they'd be delicious, but failed to deliver.  Honestly, the best I found was  the dessert-like granola from Target's house brand, Archer Farms, or the Udi's granola included in my meal on Virgin America.

But I was given a sample of Worthy Granola by a co-worker.  I read the label: organic, non-GMO, blah blah blah.  I had no expectations.

It turned out to be the best granola I've ever had.

Worthy Granola is made locally here in San Francisco, and most of the ingredients are California-grown as well, including TCHO chocolate.  You can purchase online through Good Eggs, or find it at a few establishments around town.  I also met the owner at an artisan's market once.  She only makes two varieties of granola, but both are phenomenal.  If you ever find Worthy Granola, I highly recommend trying it!
Original Love Granola.
The signature, and original, granola is called "Original Love", made with the standard players like rolled oats, whole almonds, raisins, and chunks of walnuts.  I really appreciated the extra crunch from the well-toasted nuts, but I'm always pretty meh about raisins.  These however were at least nice and plump, not little hard pellets like they sometimes can be.

The magic in Worthy Granola is in the additional ingredients in the mix, like generous size coconut flakes and pumpkin seeds.  Maybe it is just this time of year, but the pumpkin seeds were a unique ingredient that I really enjoyed.

But the true "love" in this granola is the seasoning.  Good base ingredients only get you so far, what makes this granola insanely addicting is just how delicious it is.  Sweetened with maple syrup and blackstrap molasses, both of which give a more complex sweetness than standard granola.  And then there is a tang from apple cider vinegar.  The final touch?  Pink mineral salt.  That is what kicks the granola over the top.  The salt level is high.  Some would say it requires a "chef's palette" to appreciate it.  But to me, it is perfect.

This is the best granola I've ever had.  Interestingly, I generally prefer to have larger clumps in my granola, and this has none, but the flavors are just so amazing that I'm willing to overlook that.  I enjoy it best just by the handful alongside a morning coffee, but I'm sure it is great in other applications too.  I just never get that far.  The moment the bag is opened, it is devoured.

Side note: the granola is normally distributed in glass jars, but since I had samples, it came in bags instead.
Cocoa Raspberry Love.
Worthy Granola now makes a second flavor: Cocoa Raspberry Love.

The ingredients list is a bit long, but nothing on there is scary: the same base of thick-cut rolled oats, almonds, dried coconut flakes, pure maple syrup, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil, unsulfured blackstrap molasses, coconut sugar, raw apple cider vinegar, and unrefined pink mineral salt, plus additional freeze-dried raspberries, roasted TCHO cocoa nibs, and a blend of 66% and 84% TCHO chocolate.

I loved this flavor too.  The cocoa nibs added a little bit of extra crunch and bitterness, and the oats were covered with a little chocolate, making the whole thing take on a pleasant chocolate flavor.  I think it would be awesome over ice cream.

But the real bursts of flavor came from two other ingredients: the freeze-dried raspberries and again, the pink mineral salt.  The raspberries were just shocking.  How did so much flavor get into these little morsels?  The combination of raspberry and chocolate made it seem so decadent.  But the real final punch was again the salt.  It came through in every bite, on the finish, in a way that just rounded everything out perfectly, left the flavor lingering, and made you want.

And more I want.  Now.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Milky Way Ice Cream Bars

I'm sure you know Milky Way, the classic candy made by Mars.  I've reviewed regular Milky Way chocolate bars before, but this is a Thursday review, so it is focused on ice cream, not chocolate.  Did you know that they make Milky Way brand ice cream bars?
Simply Caramel Ice Cream Bar.
The wrapper, and exterior chocolate coating, look a lot like a regular Milky Way candy bar.  But, once you get inside, you find that the milk chocolate shell is filled with caramel ice cream rather than nougat.
The bar was very sweet, as it was caramel on caramel.  The ice cream was sweet, the caramel also sweet (and gooey!), and the milk chocolate, yup, sweet.  But, I enjoyed it.  The ice cream was better than most packaged ice cream bars, I loved the way the caramel sauce oozed all over the place, and the chocolate shell had a nice snap to it.  It was far better than I expected.

I wouldn't necessarily get another, but it was pretty good!

Update: Ok ... so I got another.  It was again crazy sweet.  I wanted water or something to cleanse my palate afterwards, as I was overwhelmed by sweetness.  The ice cream this time was a bit icy, but once it melted slightly, it was much better.  The caramel was gooey and I liked it, but you had to be prepared for the sweetness.  I again liked the snap of the chocolate, and although it wasn't quality stuff, it reminded me of the ice cream bars I ate as a kid, and thus, I liked it.

[ No Photo ]
Chocolate Ice Cream Bar.

I also tried the chocolate version, basically the same thing, except with chocolate ice cream instead of caramel ice cream.  The caramel sauce and milk chocolate shell were the same.

I again really liked the gooey caramel and the snap to the milk chocolate shell, but the chocolate ice cream was lackluster.  This version wasn't as sweet as the caramel one, but I preferred the caramel.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Travelin' Tuesday: Boston!

Welcome to another installment of Travelin' Tuesdays.

My recent Travelin' Tuesdays have focused on my adventures abroad, like London and Tokyo.  But you might remember that about a year ago, I did my first ever Travelin' Tuesdays post, focusing on a few amazing meals in Boston and New Hampshire, including the meal I dubbed "Meal of the Year" at Clio in Boston.

While not as exciting as other locales, the northeast is the place I visit the most, since my family lives in New Hampshire.  And thus, it is time to return to the Boston area, for more dining reviews.

This time, I'll start with another Virgin America First Class experience, SFO-BOS, followed by my goto stop for fresh seafood direct from Logan airport: Belle Isle.  Speaking of seafood, I'll cover some mediocre sushi from Oishii Sushi Bar, before moving on to a good brunch (featuring a maple bacon waffle martini and cookie dough pancakes!) at North Street Grille in Boston.  Finally, I'll do a new round of reviews of an east coast favorite: Dunkin' Donuts and I'll conclude on a sweet note with my favorite ice cream shop: JP Licks!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Seafood From Munchery

It has been a while since I've been able to order from Munchery.  I rave about the service whenever I use it, but since I have dinner provided at work during the week, I rarely get to use it (hint hint Munchery, please add weekend service!)  But due to the holidays, we were not able to use our regular caterer since our volume was lower than usual, so one night, I decided to get the team to use Munchery.  I'll skip all the standard details about the service, and let you just go read that in past reviews.

Each member of our group picked his or her own dish, and amusingly, everyone picked seafood, even though there were a large variety of other offerings available.  I of course also added in dessert, as I was thrilled to finally be ordering on a night when Pietisserie pies were being offered.  And I threw in some of the caramel corn, because I'm addicted to that stuff, and add it to my order whenever possible.  Protip: order some, throw it in your freezer, and enjoy whenever!

Speaking of ordering, if you are interested in Munchery, for a full meal, desserts, or even just caramel corn, use my invite link, you'll get $20 off your first order!

We were all happy with our meals, and I'll continue to use Munchery whenever I need dinner during the week.  But I'm still hoping that they'll offer weekend service soon!
Peppered Tombo Tuna: ponzu sauce. $11.95.
"Seared sushi grade tuna is generously seasoned with black pepper and pan seared rare. I serve it with a bright mix of bok choy, cherry tomatoes, Spring onions and shiitake in a soy-citrus broth."

I was really confused when I opened the box of my selection, the seared tombo tuna.  Several others picked this dish as well, and I looked in their boxes too.  All the same.  A large tuna steak, not slices of seared tuna, as I expected.

Why did I expect something different?  Well, the Munchery provided photo looked like this:
Peppered Tombo Tuna: Munchery Image.
Sure, I don't expect the dishes to look like the glamour shots provided by Munchery, but this was quite the departure!

Slightly unsure of what I was really getting here, I looked at the instructions.  I was supposed to heat the fish "until warm but still rare" after setting aside the ponzu.  What was I supposed to do with the ponzu?  Just pour it over?  Dip things in it?  Hmm, no further instruction given.  Warm fish, cold ponzu?  I decided to just have the tuna cold, as it was sushi grade fish after all, and I didn't want it to cook further.

The ponzu was ... ok.  It had some garlic slices, green onions, and cherry tomato halves floating in it, all of which were soggy and not very appealing.

The bok choy was just steamed and kinda slimy.  I liked the shiitakes, they were well seasoned, or perhaps just seasoned from the pepper crust of the tuna that was set on top of it.  Either way, the mushrooms stole the show.

And now for the tuna.  Served as a single steak, but obviously I could slice it myself as they did.  It was far more cooked than shown in the photo, and I'm certain there is no way I could have possibly heated it so that it was warm without having it far past rare.  It was well seasoned, but the pepper coating was inconsistent, and not nearly as generous as shown in the photo.  Where the seasoning was, it was really quite delicious, and the strange ponzu was not needed.

Overall, this wasn't really what I was expecting, but I did really enjoy the mushrooms and the tuna, so I was happy enough.  The others who ordered it however were not, and were quite disappointed at the done-ness level.
Sesame Seared Salmon: stir fried vegetables, kimchi aioli, tamari. $10.95. ($6.95 flash sale).
"Salmon is coated with black and white sesame seeds, sauteed and served on a stir fry of bok choy, broccolini, shiitake mushrooms and baby carrots. Served with a tamari-ginger-sesame vinaigrette and a kimchi aioli."

This was Ojan's pick, and of course I tried a bite (it was my second choice, so I was thrilled he choose it, so I'd get to try it too!)

I tried it cold, but it was intended to be heated.

The serving of salmon was incredibly large.  Tender, flaky, cooked medium.  I loved the crunch from the generous coating of sesame seeds.  Far better than I expected for pre-cooked salmon, and I would have gladly eaten the whole dish, although I would have kept it cold, duking it in the flavorful aioli.  I don't actually like kimchi very much, but I did appreciate having the creamy component alongside.

The vegetables were carrots, broccoli, bok choy, and shiitakes.  They didn't seem "stir fried" as advertised, but I think this was better, as I don't think stir fry would really hold up.  If I were reheating it, I'd probably throw the veggies and tamari-ginger-sesame vinaigrette into a sauce pan for a few minutes.  Like with my dish, I loved the mushrooms.  Meaty and flavorful.

The vinaigrette was packed with flavor, and I loved the sesame oil on the finish.  I used the leftover sauce on other food the next day.  The veggies decently cooked.

The sauce lover in me really appreciated both flavorful, well thought out sauces included in this dish.

We ordered a bit late in the day right before a holiday, so it was on flash sale since there was surplus.  The $6.95 price for a huge serving of salmon was incredible.
Provencal Style Grilled Salmon: roasted tomatoes, quinoa, sauce pistou $10.95.
"Grilled fillet of salmon is topped with sauce pistou (parmesan, basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil). Served with organic quinoa mixed with cherry tomatoes, parsley, arugula, lemon and olive oil. A side of roasted roma tomatoes with Herbs de Provence and breadcrumbs is included."

A final member of our group ordered the other salmon dish.  I did not try it, but he seemed to enjoy it enough.  The salmon was a decent size portion, simply grilled (with quite visible grill marks).  The roasted tomatoes were a bit mushy/soggy, as the breadcrumbs were exposed to the moisture of the other food.  The pistou was flavorful.

Fairly simple, but he finished his meal without complaint.  Price was the same as other seafood based dishes through Munchery.